The settlement of Jews in Opatów was connected to a bigger wave of migration of the Jewish population to Poland in the 16th century. Its characteristic feature was the transfer of Jews from large centres to smaller ones and from royal cities to noble cities. It is worth noting that Opatów was the first noble city in the province of Sandomierz where Jews settled down.

The oldest register of Jewish housings from 1507 does not mention Opatów[1.1]. In 1518, however, the town already had some Jewish inhabitants[1.2]. In 1538, four Jewish families were registered in Opatów[1.3]. It is important to note that Jews were very unlikely to have lived in Opatów before 1514, seeing that the town had been a property of the bishops of the Lubusz Province and Jewish people hardly ever settled in church-owned localities. It is most likely, therefore, that Jews began to arrive to the town when Great Chancellor of the Crown Krzysztof Szydłowiecki became the town's owner (1514–1532). Szydłowiecki's rule was a period of glory for Opatów, which encouraged people to settle in the town.

Władysław Fudalewski, a priest and the author of the monograph of Opatów, indicates that the first mention of Jews in the church register book dates back to 1612[1.4]. In 1634, the town was divided into two parts – one for Jews and one for Christians. Later on, the Jewish part came to be known as the “Jewish Street.”[1.5]

The Jews of Opatów were granted their first privilege in 1545 by Jan Tarnowski, the then owner of the town[1.6]. At the turn of the 16th century, a Jewish Community Co-operative was formed in Opatów. It was also most likely the time when a brick synagogue was built. In the 18th century, the community also had a wooden synagogue and a kloyz. The first Rabbi of Opatów was Izaak ben Eljakim Heilprin, who started to perform the function sometime before 1590. Still, it needs to be noted that over the 18th century, there were times when Opatów had three rabbis who worked simultaneously. Aside from the rabbi serving in the brick synagogue and the rabbi in kloyz, a separate rabbi was also selected by the Fraternal Society of Eternal Light (Hebr. Chevra Ner Tamid)[1.7].

The Jewish Community of Opatów had jurisdiction over numerous smaller communities. In the first half of the 17th century, the Community Board controlled the communities of Sandomierz, Tarnów, Kolbuszowa, Ćmielów, Ostrowiec, Ożarów, Baranów, Klimontów, Iwaniska, Mielec, Dzików, Sokołów, Rudnik[1.8].

In the second half of the 18th century the Jewish Community of Opatów grew in size and encompassed six towns: Opatów, Ćmielów, Denków, Koprzywnica, Nowa Słupia and Łagów, as well as 87 villages located in the County of Sandomierz: Beszyce, Bodzechów, Bogusławice, Brzezie, Brzustów, Bukowiany, Buskowice, Chmielów, Chrzanowice, Czerników, Czerwona Góra, Dworowice, Gierczyce, Glinka, Gojców, Gołębiów, Gozdzielin, Grocholice Małe, Grocholice Wielkie, Grójec, Jaglin (Jagnin), Jałowęsy, Jasków, Jeżów, Jurkowice (Jurków), Kaliszany, Karwów (Karbów, Kargów), Kornacice, Kraszków, Krzczonowice, Kurów, Leszków (Leszczków, Lesków), Lipnik, Lipowa, Lisów, Łapigóz (Strupice), Łężyce, Łukawka, Malice, Małoszyce, Międzygórz, Milowice (Milejowice), Niemienice, Nieskórzów (Nekrzuska), Nikisiałka Księża, Nowy Staw, Obręczna, Okalina, Piliszów (Pielaszów), Piotrów, Piórków, Pipała, Piwków, Podgrodzie, Podole, Paprocice, Przepaść, Przeuszyn, Rosochy, Rudy, Ruszkowiec, Ruszków, Sadowie, Słaboszowice, Sosnówka, Sośniczany, Stara Słupia, Szachów (Stachów), Tarnobłot, Trębanów, Truskolasy, Tudorów, Wąworków, Wesołówka, Wilka, Włostów, Wojnowice, Wola Grójecka, Wola Łagowska, Worowice, Wólka Bodzechowska, Wszechświęte, Zakrzówka (może Zakrzów lub Zakrzówek), Zochcin, Zwola Sniadkowska (Zwola), Żerniki (Żyrowniki), Żółczyce (Żółcice)[1.9].

In 1765, the entire Jewish Community Co-operative of Opatów had 2,034 members, 1,675 out of which lived in Opatów itself. At the time, it was one of the largest and the most populated Jewish communities in the country. It was the most populated community in the Sandomierski County, the fifth most populated in the Małopolska Province and the 15th-18th most populated in the entire pre-partition Poland[1.10].

Before the Partitions of Poland, the Jewish Community Co-operative of Opatów played a big role as a centre of the Jewish Autonomy. Opatów was the seat of one of six districts of Jewish Lands of Sandomierz and Kraków. In 1754, the district consisted of 13 other communities: Baranów, Dzików, Iwańsk, Klimontów, Kolbuszew, Mielec, Ostrów, Ożarów, Rudnik, Rzuchów, Sandomierz, Sokół and Tarłowo. The Jewish Community Co-operative in Opatów had the right to be represented at the Regional Assembly. In 1753, one of such assemblies took place in Opatów[1.11].

Seeing that rabbis and preachers working in Opatów were very well known, the town became an important religious centre. In the 1750s, the Jews of Opatów had ties with numerous followers of Frankism[1.12]. In the second half of the 18th century, the town became one of the most important centres of Hasidism. Among the tzadikim working in Opatów were Izrael Hepstein called the Magid of Kozienice, Abraham Jozue Heschl (Herschl) called the Rabi of Opatów, and Meir Rothenberg. Opatów gained most influence as a centre of Hasidism in 1825, when Rothenberg was the local tzadik. At that time, ca. 200 Jews visited Opatów during every Sabbath, and 500–600 people arrived to the town during important holidays[1.13].

Opatów was also an important trade centre, with trade being a domain largely dominated by Jews. Jewish trade activities were most developed in the 17th and the 18th century, when Jewish merchants from Opatów traded with all significant centres in the Crown, such as Gdańsk, Kraków or Warsaw, and with Ruthenia, Lithuania and other countries. Their influence reached Wrocław (at the time located in the Habsburg Monarchy and then the Kingdom of Prussia), Leipzig, Frankfurt, and even Amsterdam[1.14]. Apart from being merchants, some Jews from Opatów also made their living out of various professions (e.g. goldsmiths), rents, and usury[1.15].

Throughout centuries, Opatów was a scene of a number of unfortunate events and conflicts involving Jews. In 1693, riots between Catholics and Jews took place in the town. Some of the Catholics (headed by Szymon Zelowski, a local priest) and scholars destroyed matzevot on the Jewish cemetery. The events were incited by the fact that Jews had organised a fair on Good Friday and had opened slaughterhouses on Easter. The riots ended when Zelowski was punished by the Bishop of Kraków, who had received a complaint from the Jewish people from Opatów[1.16]

In 1649 (and probably also in 1655), the Jews from Opatów were accused of assault and murder of a Catholic girl. Eventually, the case was closed as the Jewish Community struck an agreement with the Church – they agreed to pay 1,000 zł to the Collegiate Church each year until 1695. In 1695, the Church treated the amount as a loan and asked the Co-operative to repay it in installments[1.17].

In 1656, during the so-called Swedish Deluge, 200 wealthy Jewish families from Opatów were murdered[1.18]. In 1689, the Jewish Community Co-operative rescued two Jews from Opatów (who were accused of profanation of sacramental bread and the crucifix) by offering the collegiate chapter a sum of 1,000 zł. In 1706, a body of a dead child was found in Opatów; one of the local Catholic priests accused a Jewish woman of drowning the baby. The investigation was suspended after the Jews bribed city officials. In 1710, Catholics accused the Jews from Opatów of witchcraft and in 1713, a priest accused them of robbery of churches in four parishes[1.19].

In 1715, Andrzej Thompson, a Scottish merchant from Opatów, accused the local Jews of intending to poison him. It is possible that the event lead to a number of official decrees issued in the second half of the 18th century, banning Jews from keeping arsenic in their households[1.20].

There were also some instances of physical assaults between Jews and Catholics. In 1720, a Jew called Manas beat up and injured a Catholic woman. In 1758, a Catholic man called Ortowski hit a Jewish woman and was then attacked by her husband Dawid, a local butcher[1.21]. Jews from Opatów also committed adultery; all adulterers were cast out of the community[1.22].

In 1759, an inquisitorial commission was established in Opatów. Its task was to investigate the case of a Jewish woman accused of infanticide. The character of the case, however, was moral rather than criminal, since the father was probably a converted Jew who wanted to take the child away from his Jewish wife once they split up. When he came home with a few priests, the wife mauled the child while trying to escape through the window. This incident may also serve as a confirmation of the fact that some Jews from Opatów converted to other faiths[1.23].

Frequent disputes between Catholics and Jews, at times leading to anti-Jewish riots, often occurred during the regional assemblies held in Opatów. In 1713, for example, the servants of the nobility deliberating in Opatów plundered Jewish market stalls and houses. Riots broke out and ended up in death of a nobleman. Similar events took place in 1733, when servants and several noblemen who had arrived to Opatów for the assembly incited riots and robberies in the Jewish part of the town. The riots lasted one day and one night; Jerzy Lubomirski, the Provincial Governor of Sandomierz, tried to subjugate them by force. As a result, a number of Catholics were killed, including at least one nobleman. Similar riots took place in the following years between the 17th and 18th century[1.24]. Trying to prevent anti-Jewish riots and actions, the Jewish Community Co-operative of Opatów offered different gifts to many Catholics, including priests, the Governor of Opatów, the nobility arriving for regional assemblies, students, poor people, and even travellers passing through Opatów[1.25]. It is necessary to mention, however, that despite numerous violent incidents between Catholics and Jews, both communities were ready to help each other. In 1759, for example, a group of local Catholics rescued a Jew drowning in the Opatówka River[1.26].

Until the 19th century, Opatów was often destroyed by fires. It was usually the Jewish part of town that suffered the biggest losses, since most of the buildings located in the district were made of wood and built close to one another, making it easy for the fire to spread. The Jewish quarter was often the place where fires broke out. In 1714, for example, the entire Jewish part of Opatów was destroyed[1.27].

In the 19th century and during the interwar period, Opatów was one of the biggest and most influential Jewish communities in the region. It is worth noting that local Jews took part in patriotic manifestations which took place in Opatów before the outbreak of the January Uprising[1.28]. In 1925, the Jewish Community Co-operative of Opatów had 6,441 members. There were two synagogues located in the entire area of the Co-operative – one in Opatów and one in Ćmielów. There were also 19 other houses of prayer[1.29]. According to a register drawn up in 1939, the movable property of the Jewish Community Co-operative was worth 1,186 zł and the immovable property – 50,700 zł. The income and expenditure of the Community amounted to, respectively, 50,679 zł and 50,379 zł[1.30].

At the beginning of WWII, many Jews from Opatów escaped to the territories taken by the USSR. Once they seized Opatów, Germans set fire to the market and deported more than 200 Poles and Jews. Jews were forced to pay high contributions to the occupant. Germans also seized all Jewish enterprises, factories, and valuables and organised frequent mass executions of Jewish people. In 1940, all Jewish schools and organisations in Opatów were closed. In the spring of 1941, a ghetto was created in the town. It housed ca. 10,000 Jews, including several hundred people displaced from Vienna. Jews from Opatów were deported to forced labour camps in Skarżysko, Starachowice, Radom, Pionki, Kielce, Bliżyn, Częstochowa, and Ostrowiec. On 22 October 1942, the ghetto in Opatów was liquidated and about 6,500 Jews were sent to the extermination camp in Treblinka. Several hundred Jews were killed on the spot, and ca. 800 Jews were transported to the labour camp in Ostrowiec Świętokrzyski. On 1 December 1942, all Jews still living in Opatów were sent to the Zoismer ghetto.

Only 300 Jews from Opatów survived the war. They moved to countries located all around the world, such as the USA, Canada, Brazil, Argentina, and Palestine. After the war, most Jewish people left Opatów and moved to bigger towns, for example to Kielce[1.31].

After the war, the Jewish community of Opatów ceased to exist.


  • J. Bursztyn, Żydzi opatowscy na przełomie XVII i XVIII w., [w:] Opatów. Materiały z sesji 700-lecia miasta, pod red. F. Kiryka, Sandomierz 1985, s. 140.
  • P. Hochmitz, E. Silberberg, R. Katz [i in.] How It Happened, [w:] Apt. A Town Which Does Not Exist Any More, ed. Z. Yasheev, Tel Aviv 1966, s. 17-20;
  • K. R. Kubicki, Opatów i dobra opatowskie w drugiej połowie XVIII wieku, t. 1, Kielce 2008, s. 146;
  • Żydzi wśród chrześcijan w dobie szlacheckiej Rzeczypospolitej, red. W. Kowalski i J. Muszyńska, Kielce 1996, s. 66-67.
  • Urbański, Z problematyki żydowskiej w Kieleckiem w latach 1945-1946, [w:] Żydzi w Małopolsce, s. 348-349;
  • H. Węgrzynek, Opatów, [w:] Historia i kultura Żydów polskich. Słownik, Warszawa 2000, s. 238;
  • A. Penkalla, Opatów, [w:] Żydzi w Polsce. Dzieje i kultura. Leksykon, pod red. J. Tomaszewskiego i A. Żbikowskiego, Warszawa 2001, s. 372;
  • J. Wijaczka, G. Miernik, Żydowscy robotnicy przymusowi w zakładach zbrojeniowych HASAG w Generalnym Gubernatorstwie w czasie II wojny światowej, [w:] Z przeszłości Żydów polskich, s. 192.


Translated by Natalia Kłopotek


  • [1.1] M. Horn, Najstarszy rejestr osiedli żydowskich w Polsce z 1507 roku, “Biuletyn Żydowskiego Instytutu Historycznego”, no. 93, 1974, pp. 11-15.
  • [1.2] H. Horowitz, Die jüdische Gemeinde Opatow und ihre Rabbiner, “Monatschrift für Geschichte und Wissenschlieft des Judentunns”, r. 74, 1930, sheet 1/2, p. 10; R. Kubicki, Żydzi opatowscy od XVI do początku XIX wieku, [in] Z przeszłości Żydów polskich. Polityka – gospodarka – kultura – społeczeństwo, ed. J. Wijaczka and G. Miernik, Kraków 2005, pp. 66-68.
  • [1.3] Z. Guldon, K. Krzystanek, Ludność żydowska w miastach lewobrzeżnej części województwa sandomierskiego w XVI-XVIII wieku. Studium osadniczo-demograficzne, Kielce 1990, p. 41, 164.
  • [1.4] W. Fudalewski, Miasto Opatów, Warsaw 1895.
  • [1.5] Cf. D. Dombrowska; the date is also indicated by W. Fudalewski.
  • [1.6] Archiwum Główne Akt Dawnych w Warszawie, Zbiór Dokumentów Pergaminowych, signature 5749; G. D. Hundert, The Jews in a Polish Private Town. The Case of Opatów in the Eighteenth Century, Baltimore-London 1992, pp. 159-160.
  • [1.7] See: Archive of the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw, MA Theses, signature 117/8, p. 13.
  • [1.8] J. Bursztyn, Żydzi opatowscy na przełomie XVII i XVIII w., [in] Opatów. Materiały z sesji 700-lecia miasta, ed. F. Kiryka, Sandomierz 1985, p. 140.
  • [1.9] R. Kubicki, Opatów i dobra opatowskie w drugiej połowie XVIII wieku, vol. 1, Kielce 2008, p. 146; in the second half of the 18th century, the villages of Chmielów, Sosnówka, and Łapiguzy were also mentioned as subordinate to the Jewish Community Co-operative of Ostrów, see: J. Kaczor, Kahał ostrowiecki w XVII-XVIII wieku, [in] Żydzi wśród chrześcijan w dobie szlacheckiej Rzeczypospolitej, ed. W. Kowalski and J. Muszyńska, Kielce 1996, pp. 66-67.
  • [1.10] Liczba głów żydowskich w Koronie z taryf roku 1765, ed. J. Kleczyński and F. Kluczycki, Kraków 1898, pp. 8-9; I. Schiper, Dzieje handlu żydowskiego na ziemiach polskich, Warsaw 1937, p. 259; Z. Guldon, Źródła i metody szacunków liczebności ludności żydowskiej w Polsce w XVI-XVIII wieku, “Kwartalnik Historii Kultury Materialnej”, r. 34, 1986, no. 2, p. 258, 260; S. Stampfer, The 1764 Census of Polish Jewry, “Bar-Ilan – Annual of Bar-Ilan University. Studies in Judaica and the Humanites”, vol. 24-25, 1989, p. 82 et al.; J. Muszyńska, The Urbanised Jewry of the Sandomierz and Lublin Provinces in the 18th Century. A Study in the Settlement of Population, “Studia Judaica”, r. 2, 1999, no. 2(4), p. 235.
  • [1.11] J. Bursztyn, Żydzi, p. 149; G. D. Hundert, The Jews in a polish private town, pp. 110-112; A. Leszczyński, Sejm Żydów Korony 1623-1764, Warsaw 1994, p. 170.
  • [1.12] G. D. Hundert, The Jews in a Polish Private Town, pp. 44, 121-122; R. Kubicki, Żydzi, pp. 80-81.
  • [1.13] G. D. Hundert, The Jews in a Polish Private Town, pp. 82-84; M. Wodziński, Oświecenie żydowskie w Królestwie Polskim wobec chasydyzmu. Dzieje pewnej idei, Warsaw 2003, p. 119; G. D. Hundert, Jews in Poland-Lithuania in the Eighteenth Century. A Genealogy of Modernity, Berkeley/Los Angeles 2004, p. 120.
  • [1.14] Archiwum Główne Akt Dawnych w Warszawie, Archiwum Kameralne, file no. III/1587/3, p. 12, 45; Ibidem, file no. III/1587/7, p. 39, 41, 47-48 et al; Ibidem, file no. III/1587/16, p. 90-91; M. Freundenthal, Leipziger Messgäste. Die jüdischen Besucher der Leipziger Messen in in den jahren 1675 bis 1764, Frankfurt am Main 1928, p. 171; F. Kiryk, Opatów XIII-XVI w., [in] Opatów. Materiały, p. 32-34 et al; Z. Guldon, L. Stępkowski, Udział Opatowa w wymianie towarowej w II połowie XVIII wieku, [in] Ibidem, p. 109 et al; G. D. Hundert, The Jews in a Polish Private Town, p. 50-63 et al,
  • [1.15] F. Kiryk, F. Leśniak, Skupiska żydowskie w miastach małopolskich do końca XVI wieku, [in] Żydzi w Małopolsce. Studia z dziejów osadnictwa i życia społecznego, ed. F. Kiryka, Przemyśl 1991, p. 27.
  • [1.16] A. Bastrzykowski, Kolegiata św. Marcina w Opatowie i jej kapituła, pt. 2, Katalog prałatów i kanoników kolegiaty opatowskiej od 1212 aż do dni naszych, Ostrowiec 1948, p. 88.
  • [1.17] Z. Guldon, J. Wijaczka, Procesy o mordy rytualne w Polsce w XVI-XVIII wieku, Kielce 1995, pp. 37-38, 98; H. Węgrzynek, „Czarna legenda” Żydów. Procesy o rzekome mordy rytualne w dawnej Polsce, Warszawa 1995, p. 194; G. D. Hundert, The Jews in a Polish Private Town, p. 40.
  • [1.18] G. D. Hundert, The Jews in a Polish Private Town, p. 27-29; Z. Guldon, Straty ludności żydowskiej w Koronie w latach potopu, [in] Rzeczpospolita w latach potopu, ed. J. Muszyńska and J. Wijaczka, Kielce 1996, p. 299; Z. Guldon, Stefan Czarniecki a mniejszości etniczne i wyznaniowe w Polsce, [in] Stefan Czarniecki. Żołnierz – obywatel – polityk, ed. W. Kowalski, Kielce 1999, s. 105.
  • [1.19] J. Bursztyn, Żydzi, p. 141; G. D. Hundert, The Jews in a polish private town, p. 40; Żydzi polscy 1648-1772. Sources, discussion and introduction by A. Kaźmierczyk, Kraków 2001, p. 208.
  • [1.20] R. Kubicki, Opatów i dobra opatowskie w drugiej połowie XVIII wieku, vol. 1, p. 299.
  • [1.21] G. D. Hundert, The Jews in a polish private town, p. 44; R. Kubicki, Stosunki polsko-żydowskie w miastach polskich w XVI-XVIII w. na przykładzie Opatowa, „Kwartalnik Historii Żydów”, no. 3(223), 2007, p. 354.
  • [1.22] J. Bursztyn, Żydzi opatowscy na przełomie XVII i XVIII w., p. 154.
  • [1.23] R. Kubicki, Stosunki polsko-żydowskie, pp. 354-355.
  • [1.24] Rzeczypospolita w dobie upadku 1700-1740. Selection of sources, discussion, and introduction by J. Gierowski, Wrocław 1955, pp. 131-136; W. Kriegseisen, Sejmiki Rzeczypospolitej szlacheckiej w XVII i XVIII w., Warsaw 1991, p. 197; Sejmy i sejmiki koronne wobec Żydów. Wybór tekstów źródłowych, ed. A. Michałowska-Mycielska, Warsaw 2006, p. 679.
  • [1.25] A. Leszczyński, Ekspensy kahału opatowskiego na sejmiki szlacheckie województwa sandomierskiego w 1752 r., “Czasopismo Prawno-Historyczne”, vol. 38, 1986, book 1, pp. 191-197; R. Kubicki, Stosunki polsko-żydowskie, pp. 356-357.
  • [1.26] R. Kubicki, Stosunki polsko-żydowskie, p. 352.
  • [1.27] R. Kubicki, Żydzi, p. 70, 72; Idem, Opatów i dobra opatowskie w drugiej połowie XVIII wieku, vol. 1, p. 209-213.
  • [1.28] S. Kotarski, Opatów w latach 1861-1864, Opatów 1835, p. 39.
  • [1.29] National Archives in Kielce, 1st Provincial Office in Kielce, signature 1763, sheet 166.
  • [1.30] National Archives in Kielce, 1st Provincial Office in Kielce, signature 1765.
  • [1.31] P. Hochmitz, E. Silberberg, R. Katz [et al] How It Happened, [in] Apt. A Town Which Does Not Exist Any More, ed. Z. Yasheev, Tel Aviv 1966, pp. 17-20; K. Urbański, Z problematyki żydowskiej w Kieleckiem w latach 1945-1946, [in] Żydzi w Małopolsce, pp. 348-349; H. Węgrzynek, Opatów, [in] Historia i kultura Żydów polskich. Słownik, Warszawa 2000, p. 238; A. Penkalla, Opatów, [in] Żydzi w Polsce. Dzieje i kultura. Leksykon, ed. J. Tomaszewski i A. Żbikowski, Warsaw 2001, p. 372; J. Wijaczka, G. Miernik, Żydowscy robotnicy przymusowi w zakładach zbrojeniowych HASAG w Generalnym Gubernatorstwie w czasie II wojny światowej, [in] Z przeszłości Żydów polskich, p. 192.